Posted: Monday May 1, 2006 1:31PM; Updated: Monday May 1, 2006 4:38PM
Ruminations:Drew Gooden is going to be a free agent this summer, and each of his suitors has to be confused right now. The man played 38 minutes in a Game 2 loss, giving his team 24 points and 16 rebounds. Since then he's played 40 minutes combined in two games, putting together 14 points and 16 rebounds in the process, while shooting over 60 percent from the floor. Is Anderson Varejao that good? And how is it that Gooden and Donyell Marshall have played on the floor together for only six minutes all series long?
Miami Heat-Chicago Bulls
Champ: Kirk Hinrich Andres Nocioni is getting what he deserves -- league-wide recognition for being Chicago's best player and massive props for somehow turning into an All-Star-level talent (two years running) in the playoffs. But Hinrich (who is being asked to guard Dwyane Wade, run Chicago's offense and keep his team on the same page) has to be lauded for his play over the course of two Chicago wins. He's averaging 22.8 points and 8.8 assists this series while shooting 45 percent from the floor. Wade's no slouch, adding 24.3 points and eight assists, but the All-Star has yet have a breakout game, and he's shooting 40 percent from the floor.
Chumps: Gary Payton and Antoine Walker Where to start? Payton doesn't defend nearly as well as he used to, waves off defensive help and chirps at teammates for getting in his way while he's trying to chase Ben Gordon around the court. Walker also doesn't defend, and if he hits two out of three perimeter shots, he'll use that as an excuse to launch up five or six unguided missiles in the minutes following, usually breaking a play. They whine, moan, fight with each other and bring their teammates into the fray. And, after 28 combined years in this league, they don't even have the common sense to let their frustrations out behind closed doors rather than on national TV.
Ruminations: The Bulls swear that they've been confident from Game 1 of this series, and we believe them. But this is not the typical Scott Skiles-led determination carrying over from their run to the playoffs. This team is playing at a level that far exceeds even their best night during the 2005-06 regular season.
Detroit Pistons-Milwaukee Bucks
Champ: Michael Redd Redd made a point of not letting the Pistons' defense catch up to him in Game 3. He kept moving and put the ball on the floor only when pressured. Lucky for him, the Pistons weren't really into pressuring anyone on Saturday. Redd finished with 40 points on 14-of-21 shooting and no turnovers.
Chump: Tayshaun Prince Prince allowed Redd to abuse him, while adding only six points in 36 minutes. You know, Tayshaun, if you don't start playing defense, you're going to be out of this league before you know it. Last time I checked, the Pistons had a guy named Rodney White ready in back of you, and I hear he's a real comer.
Ruminations: Milwaukee will try to tie the series up on Monday night, and they're going to be tested. In both spirits and statistics, the Pistons played their worst defensive game of the season on Saturday night, and Milwaukee can't expect anything close to the opponent they walked all over to show up for Game 4.